Powerful Therapy Metaphors

Effective analogies to illustrate growth, self-care, emotions, addiction, grief, counseling, and life concepts

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Puzzle pieces to show how metaphors link ideas together
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As a counselor, you probably have a few “go-to” therapy metaphors that you use in sessions. For example, the “airplane oxygen mask” metaphor is a powerful analogy that demonstrates the significance of meeting your own needs before attempting to help others.

Another example of a therapy metaphor is the “rearview mirror” analogy. If you’re driving, and your entire concentration is on what’s behind you, you’ll crash. Good drivers, in contrast, focus ahead, but also regularly check the rearview mirror. The “rearview mirror” metaphor effectively illustrates how recovery from drugs and alcohol requires learning from, but not dwelling on, past mistakes and regrets.

Powerful Therapy Metaphors: Analogies in Counseling

The following is a list of helpful therapy metaphors and analogies for growth, self-care, emotions, addiction, grief, counseling, and life.


For additional therapy metaphors, click here.

For commonly used therapy questions and phrases, see Do You Speak Therapist?


Metaphors for Growth & Self-Care

Forming a new habit is like carving a path in the jungle. You trod through the undergrowth and take the same route over and over again, until a clear path is formed. Meanwhile, older pathways become overgrown and wild, disappearing from sight with unuse.

A habit forms the way water carves a new stream or river.

You can’t see the grass growing, but after a week or so, you can see that the lawn needs mowing.

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Mind the “check engine” light in your car. It indicates that something is wrong; if you ignore it, the problem will likely become worse. The longer you ignore internal cues, the greater the damage to your “car.”

A plant requires the right amount of water, sunlight, and fertilizer to grow and thrive.

You are a battery that needs to be recharged every so often.

Metaphors for Emotions

Our emotions are like a thermometer in the window. You can see clouds or rain or sun, but without a thermometer, you won’t know if it’s 90 degrees or 17 below. Emotions impact how you experience the outside world.

Life is like a heart monitor; there are ups and downs. If it goes flat, you’re dead.

The more you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to explode.

Repressing anger is like stuffing trash in a garbage can. Eventually, it’s going to spill over if you don’t take out the trash.

When you resent someone, it’s like drinking poison and expecting them to die.

Anxiety is a hungry monster that gets bigger when you feed it.

Worrying is like riding a stationary bike; you can peddle as hard as you can, but you’ll never get anywhere.

Therapy Metaphors for Addiction

Addiction is a disease of the soul.

When you’re in active addiction, you’re a shadow of yourself.

Addiction is like being in a toxic relationship. It’s all-consuming, lust-worthy, and even thrilling at times… but at the cost of your health and well-being. You have to break up in order to move on with your life.

Addiction is like a tornado, ravaging everything in its path. After the storm, it’s time to rebuild. It won’t look exactly the way it did before the tornado hit… but there’s potential for things to be even better.

Addiction is like other chronic health conditions in that there’s no cure, but it’s 100% manageable with treatment and lifestyle changes.

The longer you sit and stare at a plate of cookies, the more likely you are to give in to temptation. Set yourself up for success by avoiding triggers when possible.

If you hang out in a barber shop long enough you’ll end up getting a haircut.

Temptation is like a muscle that grows weaker with use until it finally gives out.

Living life without drugs or alcohol is like any skill; you first learn how to do it and then you have to practice. You may slip up, but don’t give up; learn from your mistakes. You can’t excel at anything without practice.

Cravings are like waves; ride them out until the wave recedes.

Attempting to save someone from drowning is dangerous. In their frantic efforts for oxygen, they’ll claw over and push the person trying to help underwater. This is an unconscious survival instinct. When your loved one is in active addiction, they’ll fight anyone and anything that gets in their way of a gulp of air.

Metaphors for Grief

Grief is a deep wound that takes time to heal. The wound is raw and painful, but will eventually scab over, although leaving behind a permanent scar.

Every person you lose takes a little piece of you with them.

Metaphors for Counseling

Going to therapy is akin to filling your toolbox with tools.

In a car, your therapist is a passenger in the front seat, but you’re behind the wheel. A passenger offers assistance with reading the map and providing directions, but it’s up to you to choose the turns you’ll take, and ultimately, the destination.

A counselor doesn’t provide the answers, but offers the tools to find them.

Going to therapy is like going to the gym; you may feel sore and you won’t see immediate effects, but the long-term results are gratifying and well-worth the investment.

Therapy Metaphors for Life

Problems in life are like bad smells; you can attempt to mask them or cover them up, but you have to remove the source before they can truly go away.

You can’t choose the canvas or paint in life, but you decide the picture you’ll paint.

Your life is a book with many chapters and pages. Every day is a new page. You write your own story.

Life is like a “choose your own adventure” book. You make decisions, but you can’t always predict the outcome.

Sometimes you’re dealt a really sh**** hand. How are you going to play your cards?

The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.


Post your “go-to” therapy metaphors in a comment!

Resources for Grief & Loss

A collection of recommended reading and other resources for grief and loss

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

This resource guide is for clinicians as well as for anyone who is grieving. This grief and loss guide includes a list of recommended books (for both adults and children); free printable PDF workbooks and handouts; and links to education and support sites.


Recommended Books

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (2000) by Pauline Boss, Ph.D. (176 pages)

Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief (2017) by Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D. (248 pages)

The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change (2006) by Melody Beattie (368 pages)

Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss (2018) by Jan Warner (272 pages)

The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith (2009) by John W. James & Russell Friedman (240 pages)

Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers (Healing a Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages)

How to Survive the Loss of a Love (2006) by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, & Peter McWilliams (208 pages)

It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand (2017) by Megan Divine (280 pages)

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (2008) by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. (292 pages)

No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death, 7th ed. (2014) by Janice Harris Lord (240 pages)

Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief (2014) by Tom Zuba (121 pages)

Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything (2017) by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. (256 pages)

Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2019) by Stephen Levine (240 pages)

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2016) by Pema Chodron (176 pages)

The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief (2015) by Francis Weller (224 pages)

Recommended Books for Children & Adolescents

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages (1982) by Leo Buscaglia (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-14)

Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-18)

The Invisible String (2018) by Patrice Karst (40 pages, for ages 4-8)

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief (2017) by Joanna Rowland (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss (2005) by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (56 pages, for ages 8-12 years)

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families) (1998) by Laurie Krasny Brown (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1996) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 9-12)

When Something Terrible Happens: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1992) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Recommended Books for Clinicians

Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children (2006) by Liana Lowenstein (205 pages)

Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Fifth Edition: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (2018) by William Worden, Ph.D. (352 pages)

Grief Counseling Homework Planner (PracticePlanners) (2017) by Phil Rich (272 pages)

In the Presence of Grief: Helping Family Members Resolve Death, Dying, and Bereavement Issues (2003) by Dorothy S. Becvar (284 pages)

Transforming Grief & Loss Workbook: Activities, Exercises & Skills to Coach Your Client Through Life Transitions (2016) by Ligia Houben (264 pages)

Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide (2014) by Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph.D., Camille B. Wortman, Ph.D., Catherine A. Feuer, Ph.D., Christine H. Farber, Ph.D., & Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. (358 pages)

Free Printable Workbooks & Handouts

Links


For grief related to suicide loss, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

(Updated 10/18/20) Free PDF and interactive online assessment tools for addiction, mental illness, boundaries/attachment styles, relationships/communication, anger, self-esteem, suicide risk/self-injury, personality, and more. This list includes both self-assessments and screening tools for clinicians to administer and score.

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by GuHyeok Jeong from Pixabay

This is a list of free online assessment screenings for clinical use and for self-help purposes. While an assessment cannot take the place of a diagnosis, it can give you a better idea if what you’re experiencing is “normal.”


For additional online assessment tools to use with couples, see Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.


Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

Jump to a section:


Addiction & Substance Use Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for substance use disorders and other addictions

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Anxiety & Mood Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders

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Trauma, Stress, & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Online Assessment Tools for Eating Disorders 🆕

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality Disorders 🆕

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Boundaries & Attachment Styles

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Relationships & Communication


For additional relationship and communication assessments, see Free Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.

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Anger


For additional online assessment tools and resources, see Resources for Anger Management.

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Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

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Suicide Risk & Self-Injury

  • Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale | PDF scale
  • Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory | Measurement of deliberate self-harm (PDF)
  • Imminent Risk and Action Plan | Assessment/plan from the University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology
  • Lifetime – Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Count (L-SASI) Instructions Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The L-SASI is an interview to obtain a detailed lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Comtois, K. (1996). Lifetime Parasuicide History. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Lineham Risk Assessment and Management Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Linehan, M. M. (2009). University of Washington Risk Assessment Action Protocol: UWRAMP, University of WA, Unpublished work.
  • Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Assessment Tool Brief Version | Full Version | Assessment tool created by Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery
  • NSSI Severity Assessment | A PDF assessment tool from the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery to assess the severity of non-suicidal self-injury
  • Reasons for Living Scale Scoring Instructions | RFL Scale (long form – 72 items) | RFL Scale (short form – 48 items) | RFL Scale (Portuguese) | RFL Scale (Romanian) | RFL Scale (Simplified Chinese) | RFL Scale (Traditional Chinese) | RFL Scale (Thai) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The RFL is a self-report questionnaire that measures clients’ expectancies about the consequences of living versus killing oneself and assesses the importance of various reasons for living. The measure has six subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child-Related Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections. Citations: Linehan M. M., Goodstein J. L., Nielsen S. L., & Chiles J. A. (1983). Reasons for Staying Alive When You Are Thinking of Killing Yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 276-286.
  • Self-Injury Questionnaire | To assess self-harm (PDF, assessment in appendix)
  • Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire | SBQ with Variable Labels | SBQ Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SBQ is a self-report questionnaire designed to assess suicidal ideation, suicide expectancies, suicide threats and communications, and suicidal behavior. Citations: Addis, M. & Linehan, M. M. (1989). Predicting suicidal behavior: Psychometric properties of the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.
  • Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII) SASII Instructions For Published SASII | SASII Standard Short Form with Supplemental Questions | SASII Short Form with Variable Labels | SASII Scoring Syntax | Detailed Explanation of SPSS Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SASII (formerly the PHI) is an interview to collect details of the topography, intent, medical severity, social context, precipitating and concurrent events, and outcomes of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior during a target time period. Major SASII outcome variables are the frequency of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors, the medical risk of such behaviors, suicide intent, a risk/rescue score, instrumental intent, and impulsiveness. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Brown, M. Z., Heard, H. L., Wagner, A. (2006). Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII): Development, Reliability, and Validity of a Scale to Assess Suicide Attempts and Intentional Self-Injury. Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 303-312.
  • Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit | Source: National Institute of Mental Health
  • University of WA Suicide Risk/Distress Assessment Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Reynolds, S. K., Lindenboim, N., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A., & Linehan, M. M. (2006). Risky Assessments: Participant Suicidality and Distress Associated with Research Assessments in a Treatment Study of Suicidal Behavior. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (36)1, 19-33. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., &, Ward-Ciesielski, E. F. (2012). Assessing and managing risk with suicidal individuals. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(2), 218-232.

For additional resources for suicide risk, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

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Self-Esteem & Self-Compassion

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality & Temperament

  • Berkeley Personality Lab Measures
  • Grit Scale | Several versions available
  • The HEXACO Personality Inventory – Revised | Download either the 60-item or 100-item version to assess for six personality dimensions
  • Introversion Scale | PDF questionnaire for introversion
  • Jung Typology Test | Interactive assessment based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory
  • Keirsey | Take this interactive assessment to learn your temperament. (There are four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational.) My results were consistent with my Myers-Brigg personality type. (Note: You must create an account and enter a password to view your results.)
  • Personality Scales | 2 Word-document assessments
  • Personality Tests | A collection of assessments
  • The SAPA Project | SAPA stands for “Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment.” This online personality assessment scores you on 27 “narrow traits,” such as order, impulsivity, and creativity in addition to the “Big Five” (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness). You’re also scored on cognitive ability. This test takes 20-30 minutes to complete and you will receive a full report when finished.
  • Similar Minds | A fun site for personality tests
  • Social-Personality Psychology Questionnaire Instrument Compendium (QIC) | A collection of assessments and screening tools

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Emotional Intelligence

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Health & Wellness

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for happiness, resiliency, exercise, sleep, nutrition, and other health/wellness topics

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Additional Online Assessment & Screening Tools

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for various topics related to mental health, addiction, and other topics

  • APA Online Assessment Measures | (Source: American Psychiatric Association) PDF screening tools
  • The Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (BFNE) | A one-page PDF that can be completed online or printed, scoring instructions not included
  • Buss Lab Research Instruments | Assessments for friendship, sex, jealousy, etc.
  • Career Assessments | Self-assessments to assess interests, skills, and work values
  • Communication Research Measures | Source: James McCroskey, West Virginia University
  • Counselling Resource: Psychological Self-Tests and Quizzes | Interactive tests
  • CSDS DP Infant-Toddler Checklist | A PDF printable checklist for identifying early warning signs of autism
  • DBT-WCCL Scale and Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Citations: Neacsiu, A. D., Rizvi, S. L., Vitaliano, P. P., Lynch, T. R., & Linehan, M. M. (2010). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Ways of Coping Checklist (DBT-WCCL).: Development and Psychometric Properties. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66(61), 1-20.
  • The Decision Making Individual Differences Inventory
  • Demographic Data Scale | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) A self-report questionnaire used to gather extensive demographic information from the client. Citations: Linehan, M. M. (1982). Demographic Data Schedule (DDS). University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Diary Cards NIMH S-DBT Diary Card NIDA Diary Card CARES Diary Card | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology)
  • Division 12 Assessment Repository | Source: Society of Clinical Psychology
  • EAP Lifestyle Management Self-Assessments | A small collection of screening tools
  • Emotional Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) | A short PDF scale to assess emotional regulation
  • Family Accommodation Scale – Anxiety | Family Accommodation Scale – Anxiety (Child Report) | PDF scales, scoring instructions not included
  • Financial Well-Being Questionnaire | Take this 10-question interactive test and receive a score (along with helpful financial tips)
  • Focus on Emotions | PDF assessment instruments for children and adolescents from 9 to 15 years. Includes Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue), Mood List, Alexithymia Questionnaire for Children, Emotion Awareness Questionnaire (EAQ), BARQ, Behavioral Anger Response Questionnaire, Worry / Rumination, Somatic Complaint List, Instrument for Reactive and Proactive Aggression (IRPA) Self-Report, Brief Shame and Guilt Questionnaire for Children, Coping Scale, and Social-Emotional Development Tasks
  • Grief and Loss Quiz | Interactive quiz from PsychCentral
  • HealthyPlace Psychological Tests | Interactive tests for abuse, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and more
  • Helpful Questionnaires from James W. Pennebaker | Topics are varied
  • IDR Labs Tests | Interactive psychology tests
  • Instruments from Foley Center for the Study of Lives
  • Integrated Biopsychosocial Assessment Form | 16-page PDF assessment form
  • Lamar Soutter Library: Behavioral Tests | A collection of psychiatric assessments
  • Library of Scales (from Outcome Tracker) | 25 psychiatric scales (PDF documents) to be used by mental health practitioners in clinical practice. Includes Frequency, Intensity, and Burden of Side Effects Ratings; Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence; Fear Questionnaire; Massachusetts General Hospital Hair Pulling Scale; and more. (Note: Some of the assessments have copyright restrictions for use.)
  • Measurement Instrument Database for the Social Sciences | A searchable database
  • Measures and Scales by University of Utah Psychology Faculty
  • Mental Health Screening Tools | Online screenings for depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction. You can also take a parent test (for a parent to assess their child’s symptoms), a youth test (for a youth to report his/her symptoms), or a workplace health test. The site includes resources and self-help tools.
  • Military Health System Assessments | Interactive tests for PTSD, alcohol/drug use, relationships, depression, sleep, anxiety, anger, and stress
  • Mind Diagnostics
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised, with Follow-Up | Free download and scoring instructions
  • Open Source Psychometrics Project | This site provides a collection of interactive personality and other tests, including the Open Extended Jungian Type Scales, the Evaluations of Attractiveness Scales, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
  • Parental Affect Test | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The Linehan Parental Affect Test is a self-report questionnaire that assesses parent responses to typical child behaviors. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Paul, E., & Egan, K. J. (1983). The Parent Affect Test – Development, Validity and Reliability. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 12, 161-166.
  • Patient Health Questionnaire Screeners | This is a great diagnostic tool for clinicians. Use the drop down arrow to choose a PHQ or GAD screener (which assesses mood, anxiety, eating, sleep, and somatic concerns). The site generates a PDF printable; you can also access the instruction manual. No permission is required to reproduce, translate, display or distribute the screeners.
  • Project Implicit | A variety of interactive assessments that measures your hidden biases
  • Project Teach Rating Scales | PDF assessments for children and youth
  • Psychologist World Personality & Psychology Tests | Interactive tests
  • Psychology Scales from Stephen Reysen | Topics are varied
  • Psychology Tools | Online self-assessments for addiction, ADHD, aggression, anxiety, autism spectrum, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, OCD, and personality.
  • PsychTests | Interactive tests for intelligence, personality, career, health, relationships, and lifestyle & attitude
  • PsychTools | Searchable database
  • Psymed Psychological Tests | Interactive tests for addiction, anxiety, mood disorders, personality disorders, and more
  • Recovery Assessment Scales | A variety of assessments for individuals recovering from psychiatric illnesses
  • Research-Based Psychological Tests | Questionnaires for anxiety, depression, personality, etc. from Excel At Life
  • Scales from the Motivated Cognition Lab
  • Science of Behavior Change Measures | Assessments for stress, communication, relationships, emotional regulation, and more
  • Social History Interview (SHI) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SHI is an interview to gather information about a client’s significant life events over a desired period of time. The SHI was developed by adapting and modifying the psychosocial functioning portion of both the Social Adjustment Scale-Self Report (SAS-SR) and the Longitudinal Interview Follow-up Evaluation Base Schedule (LIFE) to assess a variety of events (e.g., jobs, moves, relationship endings, jail) during the target timeframe. Using the LIFE, functioning is rated in each of 10 areas (e.g., work, household, social interpersonal relations, global social adjustment) for the worst week in each of the preceding four months and for the best week overall. Self-report ratings using the SAS-SR are used to corroborate interview ratings. Citations: Weissman, M. M., & Bothwell, S. (1976). Assessment of social adjustment by patient self-report. Archives of General Psychiatry, 33, 1111-1115. Keller, M. B., Lavori, P. W., Friedman, B., Nielsen, E. C., Endicott, J., McDonald-Scott, P., & Andreasen, N. C. (1987).  The longitudinal interval follow-up evaluation: A comprehensive method for assessing outcome in prospective longitudinal studies. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 540-548.
  • Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire | A PDF assessment, scoring information here
  • Stanford Medicine WellMD | Self-tests for altruism, anxiety, burnout, depression, emotional intelligence, empathy, happiness, mindfulness, physical fitness, PTSD, relationship trust, self-compassion, sleepiness, stress, substance use, and work-life balance
  • Supervisory Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ) | PDF scale with scoring instructions
  • Survey Instruments and Scales | (Source: CAPS) To assess risky sexual behaviors
  • Therapist Interview | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The TI is an interview to gather information from a therapist about their treatment for a specific client. Citations: Linehan, M. M. (1987). Therapist Interview. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Treatment History Interview | Appendices | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The THI is an interview to gather detailed information about a client’s psychiatric and medical treatment over a desired period of time. Section 1 assesses the client’s utilization of professional psychotherapy, comprehensive treatment programs (e.g., substance abuse programs, day treatment), case management, self-help groups, and other non-professional forms of treatment. Section 2 assesses the client’s utilization of inpatient units (psychiatric and medical), emergency treatment (e.g., emergency room visits, paramedics visits, police wellness checks), and medical treatment (e.g., physician and clinic visits). Section 3 assesses the use of psychotropic and non-psychotropic medications. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Heard, H. L. (1987). Treatment history interview (THI). University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work. Therapy and Risk Notes – do not use without citation. For clarity of how to implement these items, please see Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Book, Chapter 15.
  • TTM Measures from the HABITS Lab | To assess for self-efficacy, decision-making, process of change, etc.
  • Whirlwind of Psychological Tests from Delroy L. Paulhus | A modest collection of tools
  • Why Do You Lie? | Interactive quiz from WebMD

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If you know of a free assessment for mental health or addiction that’s not listed here, please share in a comment! Contact me if a link is not working.

Where Can I Find Help?

Where can you find the help you need? While there are plenty of resources out there for mental health and recovery, they’re not always easy to find… or affordable. (Plus, the Internet is full of scams!) This article is a starting point for getting help when you aren’t sure where to turn. This post offers practical guidelines; all of the resources in this article are trustworthy and reliable… and will point you in the right direction.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

This post is not comprehensive; rather, it’s a starting point for getting the help you need. There are plenty of resources out there for mental health and recovery, but they’re not always easy to find (or affordable). The resources in this post are trustworthy and reliable… and will point you in the right direction.

If you need treatment for mental health or substance use, but aren’t sure how to find it…

If you have insurance, check your insurer’s website.

For substance use and mental health disorders, you can access the SAMHSA treatment locator. You can find buprenorphine treatment (medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction) through SAMHSA as well.

Consider using Mental Health America’s interactive tool, Where to Get Help. NeedyMeds.org also has a locator to help you find low-cost mental health and substance abuse clinics.

Additionally, you could contact your local Mental Health America Affiliate for advice and/or referrals.

If you can’t afford therapy…

EAP (employee assistance programs) frequently offer free (time-limited) counseling sessions.

At campus counseling centers, grad students sometimes offer free or low-cost services.

You could look into community mental health centers or local churches (pastoral counseling).

In some areas, you may be able to find pro bono counseling services. (Google “pro bono counseling” or “free therapy.”) You may also be able to connect with a peer specialist or counselor (for free) instead of seeing a licensed therapist.

As an alternative to individual counseling, you could attend a support group (self-help) or therapy group; check hospitals, churches, and community centers. The DBSA peer-lead support group locator tool will help you find local support groups. Meetup.com may also have support group options.

Additional alternatives: Consider online forums or communities. Watch or read self-help materials. Buy a workbook (such as The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-By-Step Program) from amazon.com. Download a therapy app.

Lastly, you could attend a free workshop or class at a local church, the library, a college or university, a community agency, or a hospital.

If you’re under 18 and need help, but your parents won’t let you see a counselor (or “don’t believe in therapy”)…

Some, but not all, states require parental consent for adolescents to participate in therapy. Start by looking up the laws in your state. You may be able to see a treatment provider without consent from a legal guardian. If your state is one that mandates consent, consider scheduling an appointment with your school counselor. In many schools, school counseling is considered a regular educational service and does not require parental consent.

Self-help groups, while not a substitute for mental health treatment, provide a venue for sharing your problems in a supportive environment. (If you suffer from a mental health condition, use NAMI to locate a support group in your state. If you struggle with addiction, consider AA or NA.)

Alternatively, you could join an online forum or group. (Mental Health America offers an online community with over 1 million users and NAMI offers OK2Talk, an online community for adolescents and young adults.)

You could also contact a Mental Health America Affiliate who would be able to tell you about local resources and additional options.

If you’re in crisis, call the Boys Town Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Alternatively, you can text HOME to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor.

Lastly, consider talking with your pastor or a trusted teacher, reading self-help materials, downloading a therapy app, journaling, meditation or relaxation techniques, exercising, or therapy podcasts/videos.

If a loved one or friend says they’re going to kill themselves, but refuses help…

Call 911. If you’re with that person, stay with them until help arrives.

If you are thinking about or planning suicide…

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Veterans Crisis Line. Alternatively, you can text HOME to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor. Call 911 if you think you might act. 

If you are grieving…

Check local hospitals and churches for grief support groups; some areas may have nonprofits that offer free services, such as Let Haven Help or Community Grief and Loss Center in Northern Virginia.

Additionally, a funeral home or hospice center may be able to provide resources.

If you are a veteran, you and your family should be able to access free counseling through the VA.

The Compassionate Friends offers support after the loss of a child. Call for a customized package of bereavement materials (at no charge) or find a support group (in-person or online).

GRASP is a grief and recovery support network for those who have lost a loved one through substance use. You can find suicide support groups using the American Association of Suicidology’s directory or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s support group locator.

Hello Grief provides resources and education for children and adolescents who are grieving.

There are also online communities, forums, and support groups, including groups for suicide survivors such as Alliance of Hope and Parents of Suicides – Friends and Families of Suicides.

If you are a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence…

If you are sexually assaulted, call 911 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (or live chat). Find help and resources at National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

For male survivors of sexual abuse: MaleSurvivors.org

For domestic violence: The National Domestic Violence Hotline

For gender-based violence: VAWnet

For teen dating abuse: LoveIsRespect or Break The Cycle

LGBTQ: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs for LGBT Communities

If you’re a victim of sex trafficking…

Access Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking or call National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 (or text 233733).

 

If you’re a victim of or stalking…

If you believe you are in immediate danger, call 911. Find help and info at Stalking Resource Center and Stalking Awareness Month.

 

If you can’t stop gambling…

Call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700. Access screening tools and treatment at National Council on Problem Gambling. Attend a Gamblers Anonymous Group or other support group for problem gambling.

If you or a loved one has an eating disorder…

If you want to approach a loved one about his or her eating disorder, start by reading some guidelines (such as Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder from HelpGuide.org).

Contact the National Eating Disorders Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. (Alternatively, there’s a “live chat” option.) For support, resources, screening tools, and treatment options, explore the National Eating Disorder Association site.

Find support groups, recovery tools, and local treatment centers at Eating Disorder Hope.

Attend an Eating Disorders Anonymous meeting (in-person or online). You may also want to consider an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

 

If you are engaging in self-harm and can’t stop…

Call 1-800-DONT-CUT or attend an online support group, such as Self Mutilators Anonymous.

Read personal stories, learn coping skills, and access resources at Self-injury Outreach and Support.

Join an online community like RecoverYourLife.com.

Try one of these 146 things to do instead of engaging in self-harm from the Adolescent Self Injury Foundation.

 

If you’re concerned about the drinking or drug use of a friend or family member, but they don’t want help…

If you’re considering staging an intervention, know that there’s little to no evidence to support the effectiveness of this tactic. 

Instead, read guidelines for approaching the issue (like What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs or How to Talk about Addiction). Learn everything that you can about addiction. Explore treatment centers in the area; if your loved one changes their mind, you’ll be prepared to help.

Explore Learn to Cope, a peer-led support network for families coping with the addiction of a loved one. Alternatively, you could attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to help someone who doesn’t want it. You can’t control your loved one or force them into treatment. Instead, find a way to accept that there’s no logic to addiction; it’s a complex brain disorder and no amount of pleading, arguing, or “guilting” will change that.

If a friend or family member overdoses on heroin or other opioid…

Call 911 immediately.

How to recognize the signs of opiate overdose: Recognizing Opiate Overdose from Harm Reduction Coalition

You can receive free training to administer naloxone, which reverses an opioid overdose. Take an online training course at Get Naloxone Now. You can purchase naloxone OTC in most states at CVS or Walgreens.

For more information about how to respond to an opioid overdose, access SAMHSA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit (for free).

 

If you want to quit smoking…

In addition to talking to your doctor about medication, the patch, and/or nicotine gum, visit Smoke FreeBe Tobacco Free, or Quit.com for resources, tools, and tips.

Call a smoking cessation hotline (like 1-800-QUIT-NOW) or live chat with a specialist, such as LiveHelp (National Cancer Institute).

Download a free app (like QuitNow! or Smoke Free) or sign up for a free texting program, like SmokefreeTXT, for extra support.

Attend an online workshop or participate in a smoking cessation course; your insurance provider may offer one or you may find classes at a local hospital or community center. You could also contact your EAP for additional resources.

If you or a loved one have a hoarding problem…

Read guidelines for approaching a hoarding issue with someone such as Hoarding: How to Help a Friend.

Learn more about hoarding and find help (support groups, treatment, etc.) at Hoarding: Help for Hoarding.

 

If your therapist is making unwanted sexual remarks/advances…

Contact the licensing board to file a complaint. Each state has a different licensing board. Additionally, contact the therapist’s professional association (i.e. American Counseling AssociationAmerican Psychological Association, etc.) Provide your name, address, and telephone number (unless filing anonymously). Identify the practitioner you are reporting by his or her full name and license type. Provide a detailed summary of your concerns. Attach copies (not originals) of documents relating to your concerns, if applicable.

Read NAMI’s How Do I File a Complaint against a Mental Health Care Facility or Professional?

 

If you want to take a confidential online assessment for mental health or substance use disorders…

Free and anonymous screenings: Screening for Mental Health, Inc. or Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Mental Health Screening

For additional sites, self-help guides, literature, etc., check out the resource page.

If you know of a great resource, post in the comments below!